By: Timothy Aungst, PharmD

mHealth Journal Club

Article: Mobile Phone-Based Interventions for Smoking Cessation
Robyn Whittaker, Hayden McRobbie, Chris Bullen, Ron Borland, Anthony Rodgers, Yulong Gu
Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews
Date Published:
November 14, 2012

Whittaker R, Mcrobbie H, Bullen C, Borland R, Rodgers A, Gu Y. Mobile phone-based interventions for smoking cessation. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2012;11:CD006611.

Due to the rise of mobile phones in the lives of patients, the utilization of such devices to manage chronic diseases has become of interest. Several programs exist (e.g. NHS Stop Smoking Service’s, US NCI SmokFreeTXT program) incorporating SMS technology to help patients quit.

However, how effective are these programs via mobile devices in stopping patients from smoking?


  • To determine if interventions delivered by mobile phones help people stop smoking.


  • Systematic Review
    • Studies: Randomized
    • Participants: Those seeking to quit smoking
    • Intervention: Any type of mobile phone-based intervention as primary source of intervention. Excluded studies that used phone as an adjunct to other interventions.
    • Outcome Measurements: Smoking cessation after 6 months
  • Analysis: Meta-analysis using Mantel-Haenszel fixed effect method to pool risk ratios
  • Content assessed up to September 29, 2012
  • Databases assessed:
    • Cochrane Central Register of Controlled trials
    • Medline
    • Embase


  • 68 studies identified. After review and evaluation of criteria, only 5 studies were included in the review.
    • 3 studies involved SMS intervention
    • One study was SMS and internet QuitCoach in conjunction
    • One study was video messaging intervention via mobile phone
  • Number of participants = 9,100
  • Risk of Bias: All studies deemed appropriate for randomization. All but one study participants were aware receiving intervention. One trial had poor follow-up data. All studies had outcomes past six months as reported via participants.
  • Mobile phone only interventions demonstrated increase long term quit rates compared with control intervention.
  • 3 studies have been released since the completion of this review.

Study Conclusion:
Authors concluded mobile phone based interventions were shown to help people stop smoking. Due to the regular use of mobile phones in patients’ lives, smoking cessation methods can be incorporated to help overcome logistics of currently available programs (e.g. face-to-face contact). However, research should be conducted to measure cost-effectiveness of these methods, and the role mobile medical apps will play in the future has yet to be assessed.

Compared to data that was published previously in a review conducted in the 2009 systematic review, which found short term benefits but no long term cessation in smoking, it is pleasant to see results are showing a benefit in mobile technology helping with smoking cessation. [1] The interventions mentioned in this study demonstrated the power of SMS in helping patients, but as noted by the authors, there is no data provided on the potential benefits apps may play. With a myriad number of smoking cessation apps available on the iTunes and Google Play Stores, it would be of interest for developers and researchers to explore whether these may be beneficial. Could an app prescribed by a provider be beneficial? If so, which one? These studies may be of interest to see in the future.


    1. Whittaker R, Borland R, Bullen C, Lin RB, Mcrobbie H, Rodgers A. Mobile phone-based interventions for smoking cessation. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2009;(4):CD006611.